Lately we’ve been talking a bit about breakups and the lessons we learn from relationships that have ended — but do men actually get more out of a “failed” relationship than women? A guy friend of mine, let’s call him Adam, says — and we’re both aware that this is generalization — that men are almost always better boyfriends in their next relationship than they were in the one that came before it. Hence the reason why women can sometimes be heard complaining, post-breakup, something along the lines of, “The girl who gets him next is getting all of the benefits of my hard work! He wasn’t this sensitive/emotional mature/considerate when we first started dating — I had to teach him all that! And now some other chick is going to get to enjoy all those things, having no idea that it was my doing. No fair!” C’mon, you know you’ve at least thought something similar about an ex. I know I have!Adam concurs. “You taught him a few new things during the course of the relationship,” he said, “generally, how not to piss a girl off. Unfortunately, him learning that came by pissing you off.” In other words, sucks for you, great for the next girl he decides to date.
The thing is, by and large, I don’t think women end up being better girlfriends in their next relationship — I mean, I don’t think we’re worse, but I definitely don’t think we’re significantly better, at least in the first relationship to come after a big breakup. Why is that? Well, for starters, I think men move on emotionally more quickly, while women tend to stew. (Look at me — I am still stewing, sort of, over my breakup from two years ago.) But you would think all that stewing would lend itself to acknowledging your own failings in the relationship, and realizing how you could be a better partner the next time around, right? Well, it does, but I think it takes us awhile, especially since we spend a big chunk of that time stewing over what he did wrong before eventually moving on to ourselves.
Besides, men have a head start because they’re learning how to be good boyfriends during the relationship, so by the time it ends and he starts dating someone new, he’s already got those good habits in place. And women have given men that head start — because we’re much better about communicating what bothers us, our boyfriends are forced to listen and, hopefully, change their ways.
“A good guy is generally doing his best to make a woman happy,” Adam said. “And sometimes that means indulging her in some way. So when she verbalizes that she wants him to be more romantic, for example, he does it, because it’s an easy way to make her happy.” Let’s face it — when your boyfriend does something that makes you annoyed or angry or sad, you generally tell him right? Women like to get s**t off their chests.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to let the things that irritate them slide, not bothering to pipe up. “We make allowances when a girl annoys or pisses us off,” Adam said, “because we know we’re probably ten times worse. Rare is the man who’s really vocal about what he thinks is wrong in a relationship, and what he thinks should be done to work towards a common, mutually-beneficial ground.” If your boyfriend never communicates the ways in which you’re being a crappy girlfriend, when the relationship is over, you’re left wondering what you could have possibly done wrong. And sure, if you decide to indulge in some hearty self-reflection you’ll probably eventually identify those failings yourself, but that’s likely only after you’ve repeated them in the next relationship. Meanwhile, your ex? He’s off being Mr. Awesome with his new girlfriend, Ms. Lucky Bitch.
So, what’s to be done about this? (If you agree with me. If not, fair enough!) I can only think of one thing — I would love for men to be more communictive. Future boyfriends, if you think I’m being a nag or inconsiderate or a major bitch, please tell me. I would love to be the best girlfriend I can be, to you and to Ryan Gosling, but I’ll get there quicker if you’re honest with me. I’m all ears.